The Sheffield UAV has already completed a test flight as a glider. Photo the University of Sheffield.
3 April 2014 aerospace-technology.com
Researchers at the University of Sheffield, UK, have created a low-cost disposable drone as part of a research project on 3D printing of complex designs.
Engineers at the university's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) said the 1.5m-wide prototype unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can be the basis of cheap and potentially disposable UAVs that could be built and deployed within 24 hours.
The new 3D printing techniques could cut down the amounts of support material around component parts required by the earlier versions of the craft in order to prevent the airframe structures from deforming during the build process.
The fused deposition modelling (FDM), one of the latest techniques used to make the UAV at Sheffield, is expected to be soon used in the creation of products without the need for complex and expensive tooling, in comparatively less time than traditional manufacturing.
The Sheffield UAV, which comprises nine parts that can be snapped together, is made from thermoplastic and weighs less than 2kg.
Engineers are evaluating the potential of nylon as a printing material in order to make the UAV 60% stronger without any increase in its weight.
The prototype UAV has completed a test flight as a glider, with engineers currently developing an electric ducted fan propulsion system, which will be fitted into the airframe's central spine.
In addition, Sheffield researchers are considering full on-board data logging of flight parameters, autonomous operation by GPS, and control by surface morphing technology.